Feisty Windies on the verge of honourable defeat
The West Indies are on the verge of losing the third Test at the WACA in Perth and thus losing the series 2-0 but the script is not nearly as depressing as those facts might convey. There is a deeper story. It tells the tale of a team which is showing consistent signs of moving in the right direction under Chris Gayle as leader – and this, despite the absence of three key players and a quality new one.
Chasing 359 to win, the Windies are 308 for 9 with the last pair of Kemar Roach and Gavin Tonge at the crease. That they have scored 308 in their second innings on a wearing pitch, whilst Australia were bowled out for 150 is not to be treated lightly. Albeit barely, that they have taken the match into the fifth day is another sign of determination over disinterest when the latter could have easily consumed them. There is a encouraging culture of resistance being developed within the team unit.
Scores: Australia 520 for 7 declared & 150; Windies 312 & 308 for 9.
The Windies started day four knowing that all eyes would have been on their two most experienced batsmen – captain Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan who between them have 166 Test appearances, 11,431 runs and 26 centuries. The key figures in the run chase were obvious.
Instead, the task fell on two players who were batting together in a Test for the first time, who had a total of 745 runs between them in 15 Tests. Narsingh Deonarine scored a most impressive 82 and Brendan Nash was a study in patience as he gathered 65. They staved off the Australians for over three hours in constructing a 4th wicket partnership of 128.
Theirs was an association which restored hope and purpose to a faltering Windies run chase already without significant contributions from the experienced men who – together – added a mere 33 runs.
The night before, as they would have been strategizing the run chase, the Windies would have known that the target would have been somewhere in the vicinity of 350. As it turned out, it was 359 that they needed to win after bowling out Australia for 150, having resumed day four on 137 for 8.
Dwayne Bravo (4 for 42) and Sulieman Benn (3 for 29) were the lead destroyers of Australia.
The run chase began in positive fashion but, instead of Gayle it was rookie, replacement opener, Travis Dowlin, who stepped on the gas. He got to 22 then played a poorly controlled hook to left arm pacer, Doug Bollinger. The ball landed safely with Michael Clarke lurking behind square leg, half-way to the boundary. The loss of Dowlin was a setback but not a horrendous or distressing one. The same cannot be said for the next two dismissals.
Gayle did not resort to the muscular and blistering strokeplay of the first innings when he scored the fifth fastest century in the history of Test cricket. He was more circumspect and restrained – there was a hint of his approach during his epic innings of 165 in the previous Test in Adelaide.
Doug Bollinger, sensing that Gayle was not keen on enlivening the proceedings tried to test and tempt him – as pointed out by commentator, Ian Healy – by aiming for the Digicel logo in the vicinity of his right chest on his shirt. Short balls were not in scarce supply, but Gayle handled them well until Shane Watson came into the attack.
On 21 he played loosely to Watson and edged to wicketkeeper, Brad Haddin, triggering a boisterous, in-your-face, taunting celebration by the bowler which cost him 15% of his match fee later on. His uncontrolled exuberance at seeing the back of Gayle though could be understood in the context of the game. It was THE wicket to get.
With Gayle gone and the score on 52 for 2, the Windies were already in a hole. At the stroke of lunch, they sank deeper.
On the last delivery before lunch, Ramnaresh Sarwan attempted to cut off spinner, Nathan Hauritz, when he should have been shouldering arms to a delivery which neither threatened his stumps nor wellbeing. The result was that he got an edge to the elated Haddin and being his final innings of the series he is yet to conquer Australia where he has scored just a solitary fifty.
The stroke was described by a Vincentian fan on the social networking website, Twitter as ‘wutliss’. ‘Reckless’, ‘ill-advised’, ‘thoughtless’ are all adjectives which pale in comparison to that most unique Caribbean description. ‘Wutliss’ a stroke it was indeed when discretion ought to have been the approach.
Between lunch and tea Deonarine (171 balls, 10 fours and 2 fearless sixes) and Nash (183 balls and 7 fours) meticulously laid the foundation for their innings-saving partnership and then built on it. They continued to progress in oppressive heat after tea but Deonarine was first to depart – bowled by Watson.
It was an innings which resurrected his career and now puts him in contention for a place in the Windies middle order along his injured idol Shivnarine Chanderpaul – who he ironically replaced for this game.
Dwayne Bravo presented the Australians with an early Christmas gift when he followed an extremely wide delivery, got a thick outside edge and was caught in the gully for 1. His contribution needed to have been steady and sterling, instead it was insignificant and disappointing.
Once again the run chase was lagging and losing substance. Nash, who spent over an hour unperturbed on 48, pressed on but he too played a false shot to Bollinger – who by this time was operating with the new ball – and was bowled. The score was then 245 for 7 as Denesh Ramdin had also departed (bowled by Clint McKay for 14).
Sulieman Benn then entertained with a 28 ball cameo which produced 33 runs. His approach was simple – hit and let the runs flow. The left hander pushed the score to 279 before he was caught on the boundary off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson (3 for 67) who toiled throughout the day with a stomach ailment.
Ravi Rampaul also fell at 279 to leave the last pair of Roach and Tonge to milk as many runs as they could before the inevitable. They surprised many by taking the score past 300 in a last wicket partnership worth 29 so far. Roach was defended as if his life depended on it. It was a clear sign of the fight being cultivated amongst the players who are missing the services of fast bowling duo Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor along with Chanderpaul and new boy Adrian Barath.
If Roach and Tonge are able to get another 51 runs, they will be hailed as miracle-working heroes but such is not to be expected for with one wicket to get the Australians should be expected to wrap up the job early on the final day and attend to their Christmas duties.